A Matter of Degrees

turn aroundI hear it all the time. A young man overcomes addiction and begins a new life. “He turned his life around 360 degrees,” his mother declares with pride. You convince a friend she was wrong. “You turned me around 360 degrees,” she tells you.

Do you see what’s wrong with those statements? It’s an innocent mistake. A circle is exactly 360 degrees. To go half way around is 180 degrees. So, to get turned around is to turn exactly 180 degrees. “He turned his life around 180 degrees” is the correct figure of speech. If you go 360 degrees, you actually end up where you began – nothing really changed.

God turned me around 180 degrees. I was born an unbeliever. I was born on the road to hell. I was born unable to see God or love him.

But God turned me around. When the Holy Spirit put faith in my heart through the waters of Holy Baptism and God’s Holy Word, he picked me up and turned me around. I am no longer on the road to hell. I am on my way to heaven. I now believe. I can see God – not with my physical eyes, but through the eyes of faith. I love him and trust him.

That is what the word “convert” means. God converted me. He turned me around 180 degrees. As the hymn writer once wrote, “Amazing grace – how sweet the sound – that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”

I see God. I get it. I understand what he did to save me. I trust that because Jesus suffered my punishment in my place, I am forgiven. I am on my way to heaven.

Because of that God-given faith, I now want to live for God. Because of that God-given faith, I struggle daily to turn away from my pet sins (you know the ones – the sins which deep down I still enjoy doing).

Faith in God means turning away from those sins 180 degrees. Sometimes though, I don’t turn completely away. “Ninety degrees is good enough,” I tell myself. “Just this once,” the devil whispers in my ear. “Nobody is perfect,” our world chants.

“What’s so bad about looking at the Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit edition? At least I’m not looking at porn.”

“What’s so bad about drinking a little too much? I only do it on weekends and besides I never get behind the wheel.”

My friends, sin is a slippery slope. Once we start giving in, pretty soon we end up where we began. We make a 360 degree turn.

We’ve all been there. Even though we believe – even though we love God – we slip. We fall. We fail to make that 180 degree turn. If you have a chance this week, read Romans 7:14-25. Read how the Apostle Paul struggled with sin even after God had turned him around.

Paul found comfort, however, in Jesus. He found comfort in the forgiveness Jesus won for him. No matter how many times we mess up – no matter how many times we slip – God always forgives us because of Jesus.

Just don’t use that forgiveness as an excuse to keep on sinning. God saved you from sin. He picked you up off the road to hell and put you on the road to heaven. Show him how thankful you are. Show him how much you love him by turning from sin completely … 180 degrees.


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